SEOUL, May 21 Kyodo
Inter-Korean economic talks were locked in an impasse Wednesday after North Korea warned of ''unspeakable disaster'' if the South moves toward a confrontational position over the North's nuclear weapons program.
The economic talks started Tuesday at a hotel in Pyongyang to discuss reactivation of inter-Korean business projects, but did not resume Wednesday, according to a South Korean news pool report.
''Unless the North gives us a satisfactory response on these matters, there will be complications,'' said Cho Myoung Gyun, a Unification Ministry official and also a South Korean delegate for the talks.
Cho was referring to the North's threatening remarks and its releasing of the content of its chief delegate's speech at the closed session meeting.
The report said Cho called on the North to apologize for releasing the speech despite a previous agreement not to publicly disclose what was said in the talks.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday quoted chief delegate Park Chang Ryon, vice chairman of the State Planning Commission, as saying at the start of Tuesday's talks, ''If the South turns to confrontation, talking about 'nuclear issue' and 'additional measures,' it would sustain an unspeakable disaster.''
South Korea's chief delegate, Vice Finance and Economy Minister Kim Gwang Lim, strongly protested Park's remarks, saying they constitute a threat, as well as the North's making public the content of the closed-door session.
Park's warning was the North's first reaction to last week's summit between South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun and U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington, in which they agreed on the need to keep the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free and to achieve a peaceful resolution to the nuclear dispute.
The two leaders also agreed to consider ''further steps'' if the North escalates tensions over the nuclear issue.
On Wednesday, North Korea's official daily Rodong Sinmun called the wording of the Seoul-Washington joint statement ''a very dangerous move to increase the danger of a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula.''
''Any 'further steps' mentioned in the 'joint statement' are bound to entail unpredictable consequences on the Korean Peninsula. In that case, the U.S. and the South side will have to be held fully accountable for them,'' said the report, which was carried by KCNA.
In the economic talks that are scheduled to end Thursday, the two sides were to discuss construction of cross-border railways and roads, establishment of an industrial complex in the North and resumption of a tourism project in the North's Mt. Kumgang resort that was suspended last month due to concern about severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS.
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